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'French letter' by Herbs

See the official video for 'French Letter' at NZOnScreen.

'French letter'

Herbs are considered pioneers of the Pacific reggae sound. During the 1980s and early 1990s they had 10 Top 20 hits. One of these, 'Slice of heaven' (with Dave Dobbyn) from the Footrot Flats movie soundtrack, reached number one on both the New Zealand and Australian charts.

Herbs' music was described as ‘infectiously upbeat’, and it often carried a political message. Their 1982 hit 'French letter', questioning French nuclear testing in the South Pacific, came to express the country's anti-nuclear stance. It spent 11 weeks on the charts, peaking at number 15. Its use of a French accordion in combination with a reggae beat helped to create a distinctive Pacific sound.

The song's title was considered too risqué for radio. It was released under the alternative title of ‘Letter to the French’. It was re-released in 1995 to protest against the French resumption of nuclear testing at Mururoa Atoll.

Herbs’ songs of gentle protest about French nuclear testing in the Pacific and their adoption of a reggae rhythm won them many friends outside New Zealand … if indeed there is such a thing as a rock sound of the Pacific, then it is epitomised in the music of Herbs.

Bryan Staff & Sheran Ashley, For the record: a history of the recording industry in New Zealand, 2002


This video clip is sourced from YouTube website. The Ministry for Culture and Heritage does not take any responsibility for the copyright status of this video.

How to cite this page

'French letter' by Herbs, URL:, (Manatū Taonga — Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated